Selling a War

Written: 03/16/2003
Published in The People’s Civic Record, a monthly, Wilmington, NC based progressive magazine.

“When you advertise fire-extinguishers, open with the fire.”

– David Ogilvy

Though the decision to wage war with Iraq had been made months earlier, the “buzz” about it first began this past summer. Asked to explain why the president was waiting until after Labor Day to push for war, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.”

The “new” product is war.

The following is a look at some of the arguments employed to make the “sell.”

Bush has claimed that Iraq is developing drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which “could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas.” “We’re concerned that Iraq is exploring ways of using these UAVs for missions targeting the United States,” he said.

U.S. military experts confirmed that Iraq had been converting eastern European trainer jets into drones, but said that they have a maximum range of a few hundred miles and that they were no threat to targets in the U.S.

Bush has claimed that Iraq has attempted to import hardened aluminum tubes “for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.”

UN weapons inspectors have concluded that the aluminum tubes in question are not suitable for uranium enrichment centrifuges, saying, “It was highly unlikely that Iraq could have achieved the considerable redesign needed to use them in a revived centrifuge program,” and, after reviewing documents, calls the Iraqi alibi – that they were to be used for conventional weapons – “air-tight.”

Bush has claimed that Iraq attempted to buy uranium for nuclear warheads from Niger and the U.S. has presented documents to support this claim.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently concluded that the documents were forgeries.

Weapons inspector ElBaradei told the UN Security Council in March, “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents, which formed the basis for the reports of these uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, are, in fact, not authentic,” and “we have also concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded.”

At this time, it is unknown who forged the documents.

Bush has claimed that Iraq is a few months away from developing nuclear weapons, “I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied — finally denied access, a report came out of the Atomic — the IAEA, that they were six months away from developing a [nuclear] weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”

The IAEA report made no such claim.

The UN inspectors believe that they had dismantled the Iraq’s nuclear weapons capacity by 1998 and said in March that, “We have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program,” and stated that they had found “no indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected site.”

In February, Secretary of State Colin Powell quoted a British report on Iraq’s nuclear program and praised it as an “up-to-date and unsettling assessment.”

Later, it was reported in the New York Times that the report was plagiarized from several academic journals, some published in 1997 about “the activities of Iraqi intelligence in Kuwait in 1990 and 1991.”

One plagiarized author was quoted as saying, “Had they consulted me, I could have provided them with more up-dated information.”

Chief weapon’s inspector, Hans Blix has complained that the U.S. misquoted his reports and has openly challenged several assertions made by the U.S., while other weapons inspectors – increasingly irritated and angry with the quality of information provided to them by the U.S. – have called the intelligence “garbage after garbage after garbage.”

CBS News reported that weapons inspectors found “nothing” at U.S.-implicated nuclear research buildings and they have found “nothing” at specific coordinates supplied by the U.S. to find incriminating evidence in presidential palaces.

Even the recently discovered al-Samond 2 missiles, that Iraq is currently in the process of destroying, only exceed its 93-mile limit by 15 – 20 miles before being loaded down with the extra weight of their guidance system.

Other ascertains used to “sell” this war are:

* That Saddam gassed his own people – a true claim of an event occurring before the first Gulf War, during which time we were supporting Saddam in his war against Iran. The numbers killed in this instance may be exceeded by us when we invade.

* That he has invaded other countries – another true claim, also occurring before the first Gulf War, but note that Kuwait was violating OPEC oil production agreements as they pursued slant-oil well drillings from pools shared with Iraq, which was one reason Iraq began making threats against them, and when Saddam Hussein asked April Glaspie, the U.S. Ambassador, to explain the U.S. position regarding the matter, she told him that the U.S. considered it a regional concern and assured him that the U.S. would not intervene.

* That he is “evil” – but there are plenty of “evil” leaders in this world that we are not planning to remove from power. We have even supported “evil” leaders in the past – including support for the Shah of Iran for 25 years, whose brutal secret police had one of the worse human rights records in the world.

* That we will be liberating a repressed people. No doubt they are repressed, as are many other people in this world which we are not clamoring to “liberate.” Considering the recent reports that we will use an invasion plan called “shock and awe,” which consists of dropping 4-6 thousand bombs on Iraq in the first 48 hours, I wonder how many Iraqi citizens will be running around screaming “Liberate me!” when the sky starts falling.

* That Saddam is associated with Osama bin Laden – a claim which has not been confirmed with any serious evidence and is highly unlikely, as they are natural enemies. In his last reported statement, bin Laden even speaks out against Saddam stating that, “It doesn’t matter whether the socialist (Baath) party or Saddam disappear,” and that he does not seek victory for any of the “ignorant governments that rule all Arab states, including Iraq.”

* That an al Qaeda camp is operating a base in Northern Iraq – which is, essentially, out of Saddam’s control and so… why don’t we target it when we bomb every day in the no-fly zones where it is located?

Bush has also made claims that Saddam Hussein is “a man who hates so much he’s willing to kill his own people, much less Americans” and that “we must do everything we can to disarm this man before he hurts a single American,” that he is a “threat…that could bring sudden terror and suffering to America,” that he could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists. Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints” [Emphasis, mine].

Are we to become the world’s thought-police and decide what someone could do in the future – to punish them in advance, or are we to become some kind of paranoid avenger – blindly lashing-out against anyone who might stand against us – like a swaggering drunk in the night?

An Oct. 8th, 2002 letter by CIA chief George Tenet, reported the CIA had concluded that “Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks with conventional or CBW (chemical and biological weapons) against the United States.” It said, “Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions” and that “Saddam might decide that the extreme step of assisting Islamist terrorists in conducting a WMD (weapons of mass destruction) attack against the United States would be his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him.”

Bush has repeatedly talked about being “forced into war” with Iraq. Iraq has not attacked us, Iraq has not threatened us, nor does Iraq appear to have the inclination or capability to bother us much. Saddam knows that any “attack” he might wage against us will be met with his ultimate destruction. He has been pinned-down and under restrictions for 12 years and we’ve been bombing on a regular basis all that time as we have been enforcing “no-fly zones” in northern and southern Iraq.

Since the last Gulf War, he has not attacked or threatened anyone.

So, how exactly have we been “forced” into this war?

If it is a matter of the UN being relevant only by enforcing its resolutions, why is there no talk of enforcing resolutions regarding Israel and why are we willing to defy it ourselves?

Propaganda before a war is nothing new – it is probably as old as war itself.

It has been said that truth is the first casualty of war.

In the last Gulf War, there were tearful testimonies of Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from incubators in a hospital and being “left on the cold floor to die.” (Seven congressmen cited this testimony as part of the reason they gave the first Bush authority to wage war – the resolution passed by five votes.)

Later, it was learned that the testimonies were produced by senior executives of Hill and Knowlton in Washington, “the biggest global PR firm at the time, who had a contract worth more than $10 million with the Kuwaitis to make the case for war.”

The witnesses had been coached and included – as the primary witness – the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington, who had no connection to the Kuwait hospital.

There were also fabricated reports of Iraqis – 250,000 troops with 1,500 tanks – amassing on the border with Saudi Arabia – intent on invasion within as little as 48 hours – used as justification for war. As the Christian Science Monitor reported, regarding evidence from satellite images of the area obtained by the St. Petersburg Times in Florida; “…no Iraqi troops were visible near the Saudi border – just empty desert.”

Jean Heller, the journalist who broke the story, said, “It was a pretty serious fib.”

“That was the whole justification for Bush sending troops in there, and it just didn’t exist,” she said.

Many of the same people who were in the first Bush administration are in the second Bush administration and they appear to be employing the same tactics as before.

The Bush administration’s success, and the media’s failure, may be reflected in polls showing large percentages of the American public, who believe, incorrectly, that Iraqis were among the 9-11 hijackers (44% according to a January 2003 Knight Ridder poll) and that Saddam had something to do with the 9-11 attack (45% according to a March 2003 New York Times/CBS poll).

American writer and commentator, H. L. Mencken, once said, “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Certainly, the hobgoblin Osama bin Laden is not imaginary, but the results of his attack on the United States of America only enhances this administration’s ability to present us with other hobgoblins, which may not be as much of a threat to us as they are made out to be. If Saddam Hussein is such a threat to us, why does this administration have to present misinformation to “sell” us on the danger?

Shortly after 9-11, president Chirac from France, our oldest ally, was the first foreign leader to pay his respects at ground-zero. Headlines in France proclaimed, “We Are All Americans Now.”

We had most of the world behind us.

In a year-and-a-half, we have managed to squander almost every bit of goodwill offered to us at that time. Today, headlines are more likely to read, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad” as did a recent article in France.

How did we manage to get ourselves in this position so quickly?

The answer is: by the arrogance of dismissing our allies as we move towards an attitude of “my way or the highway” with the rest of the world and by offering up lies to “sell” ourselves and our objectives.

I am not going to buy the “new” product being offered here and increasingly, the rest of the world isn’t buying it either.